Salinger’s Protest from Dachau

By Jack Engelhard

We don’t have to wonder what J.D Salinger would have thought of the world today even as Israel fights back mobs from Syria and prepares for more bloodlust from its enemies domestic and abroad. Salinger told it plainly and powerfully in his novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” published in 1951, and following that, in his 60 years of retreat into silence. He would have called his vow of silence, “The fire between the words.”

“The Catcher in the Rye,” one of the most admired novels of the century past and present, is a work of loathing and lamentation despite its teenage lingo.

Holden Caulfield seeks truth and purity but finds mendacity and corruption. Justice, justice, he pursues. Do I suggest that Salinger was Biblical? Well, he certainly was Jewish. He was born to a Jewish father and not till later, after his Bar Mitzvah, did he find out that his mother was Catholic, passing for Jewish. (Please, save the technicalities for later.)

In his humility he never prided his Jewishness, nor did he ever shame it, like Philip Roth.

Along the way to his fame as one of our greatest writers, something happened to Salinger that demands our attention at this very moment as we brace for Israel’s summer of discontent, which has already started at all sides from a world that, once again, won’t calm down until it gets what it wants…

Salinger is our witness to what happened before and to what can happen again.

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The Curious Case of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Oscars)

By Jack Engelhard

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last royalty check came to around $4.85. In the beginning (with the publication of “This Side of Paradise”) he was America’s literary darling. In the end, practically everybody gave up on him. Hollywood snubbed him. His wife, Zelda, died in an insane asylum. Only his lover, the columnist Sheila Graham, remained loyal.

 

The author of “The Great Gatsby” — the prince of novels in our literary kingdom – died forgotten, a self-perceived failure.

 

Today, even Hollywood appreciates him. A short story of his, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” was turned into a movie and won two Oscars at last night’s Academy Awards. Too bad he’s dead. Fitzgerald could have used some of that love when he was still alive. He got nothing but scorn.

 

This may well typify the life of a novelist in Hollywood, or the life of a novelist, period. How we glorify our artists usually too late!

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Books That Could Never Get Published Today

By Jack Engelhard

Readers at the New York Times have already spoken about the most overrated books of all time and the winners (or rather, the losers) are J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” and God’s “The Bible.” I read all about it in the Times’ Paper Cuts blog ( “Plaster Saints?”) and arrived at the conclusion that the least favorable works were usually those that failed to adhere to political correctness. 

Hence, Books That Could Never Get Published Today

The Hebrew Bible: Too Jewish.

Confessions of St. Augustine: Too Christian.

Moby Dick — Dear Mr. Melville: A quite similar book has already been done by Jonah and it is still in print. We’d reconsider if you could produce a more sensitive Capt. Ahab. You do go on about whaling. Also, your opening line does not work for us. Can you come up with something better than “Call me Ishmael?” (Our first readers, by the way, were rooting for the whale.)

The Old Man and the Sea — Dear Mr. Hemingway: We no longer use the term “old man.” (Our first readers, by the way, were rooting for the fish.)

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